Turning something off is pretty simple – turn off a switch, turn off a car, or press a button to turn off your TV… then why isn’t it that simple to turn off your computer?
Shutting down your PC isn’t all that hard. You go to the start menu and choose “shut down” from the menu or hit the power switch on the front of the PC. But either way your PC usually doesn’t shut down right away. It makes some noises and the screen tells you it’s shutting down, but it seems to take its sweet time doing so. Sometimes it even does those gosh darned updates! And you start to wonder why you can’t just unplug it or turn off the little switch by the plug?
What Your PC is Actually Doing
Your PC is ensuring that all of your open programs shut down in an orderly manner. Sometimes, these applications are still doing work and require the PC to tell them to shut down if you have not already closed them. Sometimes the operating system is writing changes to that mysterious “system registry”… trust me, you want that to complete successfully!
Let’s use the analogy of a messy desk full of work. Your computer has done work ALL DAY. Now at the end of the day, it has to put away all the files it used throughout the day, take the coffee cup to the dishwasher, throw away that napkin from breakfast on the desk, and straighten up the pens used during the day.
In other words, your PC is doing all the work to clean up from the day so that when it’s turned on again, it will be ready to go.
If you elect to be impatient and pull the plug or use that switch on the power supply, you could damage files on the hard drive required for smooth operation of your computer or potentially damage files you had open in your Microsoft Office application. While modern hard drives and modern file systems have safeguards (journaling) that can help to prevent that, it’s better to allow the computer to shut down properly to ensure that all of your files are safe.
Have you ever shut your computer off by pulling the plug (accidentally or not), then came back to see the picture below after turning your computer back on?
This is because your computer’s file system needs to check itself to verify no files are damaged because it KNOWS that the desk is still messy.
This will also be helpful so that if there are problems, it can try and fix them or inform you about them.
So at the end of the day . . . ESPECIALLY if you hate running those hated Windows Updates . . . just know that it pays to be patient and to power down your PC properly.